CORONAVIRUS ALERT 08/11/2020
The Atlantic Council’s Coronavirus Alert is a regular summary of policy, economic, and business events around the emergency. To stay updated, sign up to the Coronavirus Alert here.
In top stories today:
- Russia registered the first coronavirus vaccine, greeted with caution on concerns over clinical trials, as the number of cases globally topped twenty million. Auckland, New Zealand re-imposed a short lockdown after detecting local cases, a first in more than a hundred days. UK job figures declined and Scottish soccer was thrown into disarray after a quarantine breach.
- The statistics say… there are now more than 20 million cases worldwide in 188 countries and territories; in excess of 735,000 people have died.
- The number of coronavirus cases now exceeds twenty million worldwide, having doubled in forty-five days, The Associated Press said. More than half of the current infections are in the United States, India, and Brazil, the news agency added. It took about six months to get to ten million cases after the virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, then just over six weeks for that number to double, it added.
- Russia registered the world’s first vaccine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, but safety concerns in the West focus on the country’s accelerated clinical studies, The Wall Street Journal reported. Russian officials have compared the August 11 registration with the health ministry to the space race in the Cold War era, the Journal added. Putin said Russia regulatory approval came after less than two months of human testing, Reuters reported. The shot hasn’t completed clinical trials but Russian business group Sistema has said it expects to put it into mass production before the end of this year, the newswire added.
- QUOTE: “I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks,” Putin said of the vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, Reuters reported.
- New York, California, and Texas, states hard hit by coronavirus, reported falling hospitalizations, Bloomberg reported. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s worst outbreak is showing signs of coming under control as the financial hub posted its lowest number of new local cases since the resurgence of infections more than a month ago, the newswire also said.
- New Zealand reported its first local cases in 102 days. Auckland went back into lockdown from midday on August 12 through midnight on August 14, with bars and most other businesses closed and residents asked to stay home, The Associated Press reported. Authorities found four cases in one Auckland household from an unknown source, it cited New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as saying.
- Spain, among the early hotspots of the pandemic, reported an increase of more than 1,400 infections in twenty-four hours, the BBC reported. It also recorded seventy-three deaths since August 7, the country’s biggest increase in months, the broadcaster added.
- EVENT: Veterans Advanced Energy Week brings together veterans, active duty, military spouses, and reservists to learn about energy security, engage with energy professionals, and access new career and educational opportunities. The conference started on Monday, August 10 and will conclude on Thursday, August 13. Details are here.
- READ MORE: Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is facing the biggest crisis of his twenty-six-year reign as protests erupt over attempts to falsify the country’s August 9 presidential election. Can he cling on to power? Read more here.
- Students in Scotland returned to classes for the first time in almost five months following coronavirus lockdowns, the BBC reported. Hygiene and safety measures including one-way systems are in place but social distancing will not usually be needed, the broadcaster added. Schools in the Borders and Shetland regions are first to reopen, with most others in Scotland following on August 12, the BBC said.
- Scottish soccer clubs Celtic and Aberdeen should not be playing matches this week after their players broke lockdown rules, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, the BBC reported. Celtic player Boli Bolingoli traveled to Spain without the club’s knowledge, failed to quarantine, and then played in the August 9 match against Kilmarnock, the broadcaster said. That was a “flagrant breach” of restrictions, the BBC cited Sturgeon as saying.
- UK finance minister Rishi Sunak said the government can’t protect every job affected by the pandemic, following figures that showed the biggest decline in people in work since 2009, Reuters reported. Meanwhile the number of European Union citizens working in the United Kingdom fell to the lowest since 2015 in the second quarter as the hospitality industry suffered, Bloomberg said.
- UK consumers spent the most in July since coronavirus lockdowns began in March after pubs, restaurants, and hair salons reopened, Reuters reported.
- The United States is the weak link in the global economy’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as its fumbling response to the outbreak, as The Associated Press puts it, casts doubts on its economic prospects. Meanwhile, consumers in China are buying German luxury cars again and Europe’s factories are increasing production, the news service added.
- QUOTE: “The US won’t be the locomotive” to pull the global economy out of its rut, said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Markit, as it did following previous crises including the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, The Associated Press reported.
- Auto sales in China, the world’s biggest market for vehicles, increased for the fourth month in a row in July, surging 16.4 percent from a year earlier, Reuters reported. Those figures boost car makers’ hopes of a return to growth in the second half of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- QUOTE: “The trends that have undermined US job security have persisted for decades, but the gap between those ordering takeaway and those delivering it has been widened by the pandemic,” Megan Greene, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, wrote in the Financial Times. “Rising inequality is bad for the economy and the social fabric. Crises provide opportunities for bold changes.”
- The raw materials for goods including clothing and chocolate have rebounded following declines caused by the pandemic, as supply constraints buoy prices and investors bet on increasing consumer demand as the economy recovers, The Wall Street Journal reported. Soft commodities including cocoa and coffee trading on the Intercontinental Exchange have recovered from lows earlier in the year and now figure among the best performing major assets in the world, the Journal said, adding that cotton and sugar futures have also increased in recent months.
- Nearly 60 percent of pubs, restaurants and hotels in Germany believe they will struggle to survive because of the pandemic, the BBC reported, citing a survey by Bild newspaper.
- There’s a feature article in Bloomberg Businessweek that examines the biggest challenges and promising solutions in the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine, including the weirdest science, as the news outlet puts it. It’s a virus special edition, with articles on the use of a messenger inside cells to produce an immune reaction, attempts to reinvent how vaccines work, and Merck’s bet on a one-shot vaccine.
- South Africa’s poor are scrambling for anti-HIV drugs as the pandemic disrupts the supply of anti-retroviral medication, The Associated Press reported. That’s putting at risk the lives of 24 million people worldwide who depend on the drugs to suppress the HIV virus; it’s a particular issue for South Africa, which with 7.7 million HIV-positive people is the world’s worst-hit country, the news service said.
- The statistics say… People with HIV and who contract COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to die as people without HIV, The Associated Press reported, citing an early study of mortality rates in South Africa’s Western Cape province.
- “Is It Safe to Ride Public Transit During the Pandemic?” Bloomberg published this article by The Associated Press. It covers issues from transmission by droplets, cleansing of surfaces including by ultra-violet light, masks, and when it’s best to travel: off-peak if possible. “What Happens to Viral Particles on the Subway” reads a New York Times headline to an August 10 article.
- A fourteen-day quarantine for arrivals from countries with high rates of infection means the United Kingdom is effectively closed off from markets including the United States, Canada, and Singapore, London’s Heathrow airport said on August 11, Bloomberg reported. The airport blamed the UK government for July traffic figures, down nearly 89 percent from a year earlier, which show little signs of recovery at what was Europe’s busiest hub before coronavirus, the newswire added.
- P&O, the United Kingdom’s biggest cruise-line operator, has extended the suspension of all cruises by about a month until November 12, the BBC reported. Customers affected will get a credit worth 125 percent of their original booking, or can apply for a cash refund, the broadcaster cited P&O as saying.
- US President Donald J. Trump is considering banning re-entry of US citizens or legal residents if an official reasonably believes the person has coronavirus or has been exposed to the virus, The New York Times reported. Federal agencies have been asked to give feedback on the proposal by August 11, but it’s unclear when the measure might be approved or announced, the newspaper said. The proposal focuses on re-entry from Mexico, The Washington Post reported.
- InterContinental Hotels, whose brands include Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, will cut 10 percent of corporate jobs after sales fell by more than a half and profit slumped 82 percent in the first half, Reuters reported. The hotelier said it had limited visibility on when the travel market might improve, the newswire added.
- “One disease. Two Brazils.” That’s the headline to an article in The Washington Post that compares the experience of two men in Brazil: a wealthy doctor named Tiago Lemos, aged 37, and a favela merchant named Rodrigo Guedes, aged 38, who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro.
- The first in a series of socially-distanced concerts this month and next begins in Gosforth Park in Newcastle, northeast England on August 11, the BBC reported. The audience will be split up into distanced viewing platforms, with each mini-enclosure lying two meters apart and holding five people who can pre-order food and drinks to avoid queuing, the broadcaster said. Performers include Van Morrison and The Libertines, the BBC added.
- Johns Hopkins University interactive web-based dashboard to visualize and track reported cases in real-time.
- CDC provides frequent updates and background information on coronavirus and interim guidance on company policies.
- The World Health Organization daily situation reports.